House debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Private Members' Business

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

12:51 pm

Photo of Anne StanleyAnne Stanley (Werriwa, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month;

(b) Sunday, 15 October 2023 marks Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day; and

(c) this date acknowledges the shared loss experienced by parents, friends, and healthcare workers of those little ones lost too soon whether through miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or any other loss;

(2) acknowledges that:

(a) there is a significant impact on families which have lost a baby;

(b) every year 110,000 Australians experience a miscarriage, more than 2,000 experience stillbirth, and almost 700 lost a baby within the first 28 days; and

(c) stillbirth occurrence is higher in Aboriginal and Culturally Diverse communities;

(3) further acknowledges all families that have experienced loss, either recently or over time; and

(4) commends the Government for providing $5.1 million to organisations to support women and families following stillbirth or miscarriage.

Thirty-six years ago, when we lost our first child, families experiencing stillbirth were unable to register the birth or the death of their child. Parents and mothers were told to go home and forget about it and to try and have another baby. In New South Wales you can now register a stillbirth and an early pregnancy loss. This makes a tangible difference to parents, ensuring that everyone recognises what has happened to them and their families.

Next month marks Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, with 15 October being Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, a moment in which hundreds of thousands of families across Australia remember and mark the shared loss of their babies. The loss of a baby is heartbreaking. The sorrow, the grief, the pain that is felt and the emotions that are experienced are unique and unimaginable. It is an experience that devastates families. The thought of what could be at those times, when families are celebrating birthdays, weddings, footy grand finals and graduations, is when the loss of those who are missing is most acutely felt.

Every year 3,000 families are told that their babies will not survive, and yearly the estimate is that 100,000 women will experience miscarriage. It is estimated that 25 per cent of pregnancies end in miscarriage—an experience that is, unfortunately, too common. Despite the experiences of a quarter of those who get pregnant, it is often overlooked and diminished with well-meaning but misplaced comments. Being told, 'Don't worry, you'll have another baby,' or, 'At least you can get pregnant,' does nothing to ease the grief, because we wanted our baby and not to have to start again. Whilst these comments are well meaning, the comments are the consequence of the much broader, more systemic issues of health and women in our society, one that diminishes and fails to take seriously the experiences of women.

The other is how we collectively process and speak about loss. Speaking of grief can be seen as awkward and uncomfortable. It is an experience, though, that we all share. Feelings of loss are as valid as any other feelings. Next month families across Australia and on social media will be posting images of candles for their lost babies. It's a public acknowledgement to give families the opportunity to express their heartache and grief, which is important for some level of healing and comfort. While it doesn't erase the scars, the acknowledgement can help ease the pain. If it can reduce the stigma and encourage more people to speak about their loss, our society will be better for it. Recognition will help raise funds for research into reducing the incidence of stillbirth, miscarriage and neonatal loss.

I acknowledge the fact that miscarriages, stillbirths and neonatal deaths are much higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women as well as women of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The perinatal mortality rate for Indigenous women between 2015 and 2019 was 15 babies per 100,000 births compared to nine per 100,000 for non-Indigenous women, and this gap has not significantly changed over a decade. We must do more and we must do better to close the gap. Every year we delay and for every measure that fails, more Indigenous babies are lost.

Infant loss is something that is incredibly personal, and it can feel isolating, but help and support are out there. In November last year, Assistant Minister Kearney announced $5.1 million in grants to organisations that provide high-quality evidence based bereavement care nationally for women and families who've experienced stillbirth or miscarriage. Support services such as SANDS, Miracle Babies and Red Nose are there to help families navigate what is an incredibly difficult journey. I know this because they were there for me when I needed their support. I want to thank them for all that they do for those who experience such a heartbreaking loss, and I want to acknowledge those who will share their stories both in this house and across Australia. It is difficult but necessary to ensure our babies are never forgotten.


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